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Literature / No Country for Old Men

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"What you got ain't nothin' new. This country's hard on people. You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waitin' on you. That's vanity."

No Country for Old Men is a 2005 neo-Western thriller novel by Cormac McCarthy, a grizzled old man who refuses to discuss his books beyond their often disturbing content.

The place is West Texas; the year, 1980. When rugged Vietnam veteran Llewelyn Moss finds the horrific aftermath of a botched drug deal and takes a suitcase filled with money, he sets in motion a spiral of violence beyond his control or comprehension. A cynical old sheriff, Ed Tom Bell, is determined to prove that there's still a place for justice in an otherwise unfair and cruel world as he sets out to find Moss and protect him from the owners of the money.

But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the men behind the deal have sent ruthless hitman Anton Chigurh to retrieve the briefcase. Chigurh is a man willing to do absolutely anything — to "follow a supreme act of will," as he puts it — in order to achieve his aims... and it's no longer just the money he's after.

The book would be adapted into a film in 2007, written and directed by The Coen Brothers.

Provides examples of:

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  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The book is set in the 1980s but was released in 2005.
  • The '80s: Set in 1980; since it's the beginning of the decade, and the setting is rural Texas, there isn't much stereotypical '80s fashion. Chigurh's rather out-of-place garb (alligator skin boots, denim jacket...) could be leftover fashion from the '70s, not to mention his haircut. There's no '80s pop soundtrack either; it's mostly eerie sound effects or silence.
  • An Aesop: Monstrous evil like Chigurh has always existed, and thinking previous times were better or more moral is vanity. Despite all of this, there are always people who will carry the fire.
  • Arbitrary Gun Power: In Real Life, a cattle-gun would barely be able to dent a door-lock, much less blow it completely out of the door. Though, one could argue that one of the most psychotic and dangerous people ever may have made a few modifications to his main method of breaking into houses and killing victims.
  • Action Survivor: Llewelyn Moss. Initially. Not so much by the end.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Most characters in the story find themselves alone and helpless with Anton Chigurh. No one ever shows up to rescue them.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • It's never made explicit whether Chigurh killed the accountant.
    • Does Bell's dream symbolize hope, or despair?
  • Anti-Climax:
  • Anti-Hero: Moss is probably a Nominal Hero, and Bell gradually goes into Knight in Sour Armor.
  • Anyone Can Die: Come the finale, the only major characters who haven't died are Ed Tom Bell and Chigurh.
  • The Atoner: Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, mostly in the book;
  • Ax-Crazy: Anton Chigurh kills a lot of people with no emotion, and has a "personal code" which mostly seems to be an excuse for killing people who do not pose a threat.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: That this seems to happen more and more in the modern world is what drives Sheriff Bell over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Badass Boast: "I'm going to make you my special project."
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: In a particularly disturbing example, Chigurh steals a random passerby's car by pulling him over in a police car, and manages to get him to stand still and complacent as he punches a hole into his forehead with a cattle bolt.
  • Beige Prose: The novel, even more so than usual for McCarthy, thanks to it originally being written as a screenplay.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Anton Chigurh, the Juarez Cartel, and the Matacumbe Petroleum Group are all after the money and willing to kill for it (moreso the former two, mind). One could argue that Moss is a Villain Protagonist, too, since he is, after all, ultimately just a thief who robs a bunch of dead men (and endangers his family while he's at it), though he is easily the least reprehensible of the bunch.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: The middle manager of the Matacumbe Petroleum Group. He seems to be the one who arranged to purchase $2.4 million worth of black tar heroin from Pablo Acosta's Juarez Cartel, and is responsible for bringing both Chigurh and Wells into the plot that he kicked off to begin with. It's subtly implied that this may be his first rodeo and that he's in over his head, and the company's initial foray into the drug trade ultimately gets him killed.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When Moss gets woken up by the Mariachis the song they're playing translates to: "You wanted to fly with no wings/You wanted to touch heaven/You wanted many riches/You wanted to play with fire/And now that—"
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Chigurh versus Moss. Chigurh is a relentless, cold-blooded killer. Moss is impulsive and prideful, getting innocent people like his wife in danger or killed, which ultimately leads to his own death.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Moss mistakenly believes that this is how the world works.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Chigurh to the poor sap he carjacks. With a cattle gun, of all things.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Moss takes one from the site of the botched drug deal, setting the plot in motion.
  • Captain Obvious: After Chigurh gets T-boned, one of the kids on the bicycles states the obvious fact that Chigurh has a bone sticking out of his arm. In fact, he states it twice. Then again, he's probably more concerned that Chigurh's showing a disturbing lack of alarm about his injury.
  • Carnival of Killers: There's not only Chigurh, but Harrelson's character, and the random hitmen Chigurh kills.
  • The Cartel: Real-life drug kingpin Pablo Acosta's Juarez Cartel is one of the two parties involved in the drug deal gone wrong. Their hitmen eventually kill Moss.
  • Cassandra Truth: "It's full of money."
  • Celebrity Paradox: In the novel, Ed Tom Bell mentions the murder of a federal judge in San Antonio. He's referring to John Howland Wood, who was assassinated outside his townhouse by a contract killer named Charles Harrelson on May 29, 1979. Woody Harrelson (yes, the son of Charles) would go on to co-star in the Coen Brothers' film.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: Moss finds a dying man asking for water when he first reaches the shootout. He leaves without helping, but his conscience prickles him later at home, so he returns to the shootout scene to bring the man water... which is a mistake, and kickstarts the plot.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Carson is hired to kill Anton after Anton kills the managerials who'd come out with him to survey the deal gone bad, as well as the Mexicans at the motel, causing his boss to think he's gone rogue.
  • Counterfeit Cash: Downplayed: the money within the briefcase is certainly authentic, but its setup is misleading, as one layer below the top row of bundles of hundreds is a row with bundles of ones, including a bundle with a slot cut inside it to store a tracker.
  • Crapsack World: Sheriff Bell seems to believe that this is what the world is becoming, as does his friend in El Paso, who complains about teens coloring their hair and wearing nose rings. His old mentor later sets him straight. The world isn't becoming crapsack, it's always been that way.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Moss goes to some trouble setting up a proper hideout and trying to preempt his enemy's attacks. If it were not for his quick thinking and planning, he could have been killed very quickly.
  • Creepy Monotone: Chigurh speaks in one, although the slight intonation he does have at times carries almost palpable menace.
  • Dead Foot Leadfoot: Moss hitches a ride with a bystander, who is killed while Moss talks to him. Later, he hitches another ride with an entirely different man, who is also killed for his trouble, but that happens long after he was separated from Moss.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Llewelyn Moss is (at least at first) a carefree one. His wife Carla Jean Moss is a fretful one. Ed Tom Bell is a wistful, morose one. Anton Chigurh is a cold and deadly one.
    Chigurh: What business is it of yours where I'm from... friendo?
  • Death Is Dramatic: Moss' death is a notable subversion in drama, as it happens off-screen. Though in the book, the gun battle with the cartel is actually described vividly by a police officer after the fact, and it's pretty damn dramatic how it went down.
  • Deconstruction: Moss is a deconstruction of the action hero, especially the older tougher variety. He thinks of himself as tough, resourceful, and morally righteous. To the audience, he comes across as greedy, vain, and stupid, never really thinking of the consequences of his actions, either to himself or those around him. Like Sheriff Bell, Moss is an archetype of an era that never existed when men never gave in to bad guys, the lines of black and white were clear, and the hero got to ride off into the sunset when it's over. He doesn't seem to realize that the world is and has always been a much darker place where men like that have no place. Unlike Bell, he never realizes, and pays the ultimate price for his arrogance.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Llewelyn Moss. Sheriff Bell is the real protagonist (however nominal), and delivers both the opening and closing monologues. The story is about an old man not adapting to the reality of the brutal environment he works in.
  • Deep South: The setting, although the simple folk oblivious to the evil encroaching upon them evoke shades of Sweet Home Alabama.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Bell crosses it after the deaths of Llewelyn and Carla Jean. A conversation with his Uncle Ellis reminds him that criminality and senseless violence have always been part of life in the region. Bell's narration ends on an ambiguous note as he relates two dreams he had. (They seem to allude to Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece The Road.)
  • Determinator: All the men. But Chigurh trumps everyone else; nothing, not even potentially crippling injuries, can keep him down for long.
  • Dice Roll Death:
    • Anton Chigurh uses a coin toss to decide whether to kill or spare certain people.
    • When Chigurh escapes the police station, he stops a driver on a highway to kill him and steal his car. The poor guy just happened to be the only one on the road.
    • Llewelyn flags down a motorist on an otherwise deserted street while running from Chigurh; the driver dies when Chigurh shoots at them. As above, the guy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Dissonant Serenity: One of the most chilling aspects of Chigurh.
  • Downer Ending: Not only is the deuteragonist murdered (off-screen), but then the villain murders the hero's wife (again, off-screen) and escapes justice, leaving an old man to contemplate his inability to act in the face of so much seemingly pointless violence of the world. On a slightly brighter note, we see that Chigurh is himself not immune to the impartiality of the universe. While he survives the film, he winds up wounded and without his money. The novel also implies that the police are still tracking down Chigurh, indicating that soon he will be caught.
  • The Dreaded: Even other hardened killers are afraid of Chigurh, and with good reason.
  • Easter Egg: The credits include an attribution for "The One Right Tool," a reference to one of Chigurh's apparent reasons for turning on his employer. Right above it is a credit for "Serious Matters" (i.e., lawyerin' stuff).
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Chigurh.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Subverted. During his conversation with Carla Jean, Sheriff Bell mentions that modern cattle processors use an air gun for efficient killing. However, he is unable to realize that there's a connection to Chigurh's victims — who apparently died of bullet wounds with no bullets — and dismisses it as a stray thought.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Stephen Root's character is credited as "Man Who Hires Wells."
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: For all that he's an unstoppable monster who cannot be argued with, the old man at the gas station gets a small but powerful retort when he responds "I was just passing the time. If you don't want to accept that, I don't know what I can do for you." It seems almost to enrage Chigurh that someone would try to be friendly to someone else, even when they don't have to be, just for the sake of being nice.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Chigurh is willing to belittle and possibly kill a gas station attendant for trying to make small talk with him.
    • In the novel, he casually describes how he murdered someone in a parking lot for making fun of him.
  • Expy: Chigurh is one of The Terminator. Word of God acknowledged this, and said that the ending where Chigurh has a violent bone break was to make him seem less like a machine.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    Carla Jean: The coin ain't got no say. It's just you.
    • Also discussed when Chigurh is about to kill Carson.
      Chigurh: You should admit your situation. There would be more dignity in it.
    • The accountant seems remarkably unfazed considering Chigurh has just killed the only other man in the room with him; he just calmly asks if he's going to die next. But, it's entirely possible he survives, as we never do see the results of the conversation.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Lampshaded; "Chigurh" is pronounced almost like "sugar." Then there's his sense of fashion...
  • Freudian Trio: Moss is the Ego, Chigurh is the Id (representing darkness and violence), Bell the Superego (representing all that is good and rational). Going on the Good vs. Evil, with man in the middle interpretation, that is.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: A major theme of the story, embodied by Sheriff Bell. However, the inverse is also depicted, as seen in Chigurh's frustration with Carla Jean refusing to play his coin flip game and pointing out his own agency.
  • Good Ol' Boy: Seeing as the story is set in rural Texas, there are plenty of these. Sheriff Bell, with his wistfulness for a better past that never was, is perhaps the best example.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Moss simply walks over the US-Mexican border into Mexico, past the only Mexican night shift customs officer, who is asleep. Truth in Television, however, justifies this — you can indeed cross the border to Mexico without as much as a passport control, but getting back to the US is a totally different affair altogether.

  • Handy Cuffs: Initially, Chigurh's hands were cuffed from behind, but while the cop is distracted on the phone he slips his feet between his hands so that the cuffs are in front of him, and then uses them to strangle the cop.
  • Happily Married: Ed Tom Bell and Loretta; Llewelyn and Carla Jean (though they snark at each other occasionally).
  • Hates Small Talk: The unfettered, purpose-driven Chigurh does not respond well to idle chit-chat (see Evil Is Petty).
  • Heads or Tails?: Anton Chigurh flips a coin to decide whether to kill a potential victim. Those that choose not to take the chance are killed anyway, because they refuse to submit to the Powers That Be. Fans actually debate over the reason why he does it. Carla Jean refuses to play, refusing to blame the coin or fate for what she believes is her inevitable death -- simply Chigurh.
  • The Hero Dies: Moss himself near the end.
  • Hero Killer: Anton Chigurh murders Carson Wells and Carla Jean.
  • Historical Domain Character: Though he doesn't appear, real-life Mexican drug kingpin Pablo Acosta is hinted to be one of the parties interested in recovering the stolen briefcase.
  • Hollywood Old: Uncle Ellis is supposed to be much older than Ed Tom Bell. Ellis' actor, Barry Corbin, is only about six years older than Ed's actor, Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Hollywood Silencer: With its enormous silencer, Chigurh's Remington 11-87 shotgun has a report no louder than that of a BB gun.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Moss going back to give the dying man water (when he's likely already dead at that point), which is what sets the chase in motion. He even lampshades this when he says he's about to do something really stupid.
    • Moss going half the movie after acquiring the money before finding the transponder in the bag with the money. He never even decided to search the bag to count the money? Of course, this is done because otherwise thestorywould be much, much shorter. Related, the drug cartel's plan to keep tabs on the money by using the transponder in the first place. They couldn't have predicted that if things went south with the drug deal, that the person who ended up with the money would just ditch the bag like Moss did.
  • I Gave My Word: A dark example. When they briefly connect over the phone, Chigurh demands that Moss surrender himself and the money, or else he'll track down and murder his wife Carla Jean. Moss, predictably, refuses the ultimatum. At the end even though Moss is dead and Chigurh has already recovered the cash, he shows up at her house and makes good on his promise, using this exact justification.
  • If I Do Not Return:
    Llewelyn: If I don't come back, tell Mother I love her.
    Carla Jean: Your mother's dead.
    Llewelyn: Well, then I'll tell her myself.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Chigurh. He uses a pneumatic cattle bolt gun as a a lock-breaker and once as an improvised weapon, and his primary firearm is a silenced Remington 11-87 shotgun with a pistol grip.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Not verbally, but when Chigurh gets into a car collision that gives him a nasty open fracture (read: bone piercing skin), he asks one of two youths for his shirt as a (partial) disguise in exchange for a lot of money. Llewelyn does much the same thing earlier after getting wounded by Anton, asking three college-age kids for a coat in exchange for a lot of money.
    • This example exists only in the book: when Sheriff Bell first meets Carla Jean, he removes his hat, which she takes to mean that he's informing her that her husband is dead, and Bell has to quickly calm her down and explain that he was just being polite before she has a breakdown. Later on , they meet again and he removes his hat once more, only this time Llewelyn is actually dead, and it takes Carla Jean a moment to understand this time.
  • The Ingenue: Carla Jean Moss, who is genuinely innocent of Llewellyn's antics.
  • Karma Houdini: Played with. Llewelyn's killers get away just as Bell arrives, but he managed to kill one and sent the rest running in fear. Later, Chigurh does kill his wife, but she defies his nonsensical logic. Shortly after, a car slams into him, apparently killing him, but he manages to get out and escape after bribing some kids nearby to keep quiet — many critics saw this as a clean getaway, but even with his medical knowledge, the injuries he received are not treatable by himself, and are very likely to put him out of commission, if not kill him. It's spelled out further in the book, where one of the kids rats him out and the sheriffs know where he's going.
  • Killed Offscreen: Happens to both Llewelyn and Carla Jean.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    Carla Jean: You don't have to do this.
    Chigurh: People always say the same thing.
    Carla Jean: What did they say?
    Chigurh: They say, "you don't have to do this."
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Chigurh gets T-boned by a speeding car a few minutes after killing Carla Jean. While Chigurh's shown to have fixed his wounds before, the sort of fracture he receives is going to put him out of commission for a long while (if not permanently) without real medical aid.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Taken from the poem "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats. While in the original poem the speaker is an old man who can no longer keep up with the lust (Eros) of the young, Sheriff Bell is an old man who can't keep up with the violence (Thanatos) of the young.
  • Love at First Sight: A rare, sweet moment when Carla Jean describes to Sheriff Bell how she met Moss. Moss simply walked into the store in which she worked, he said hello, and "that was all she wrote."
  • A MacGuffin Full of Money: Moss has a suitcase containing $2 million. Chigurh is hunting Moss to get the money. Bell is hunting Chigurh and simultaneously hunting Moss in hopes of getting him to safety. Chigurh never catches up with Moss, and Bell never catches up with either Moss or Chigurh. Bell and Chigurh almost cross paths, but they never actually meet one another.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Chigurh tracks Llewelyn via transponder to a motel room. While Chigurh is violently eliminating the Mexicans occupying the room, Llewelyn is dragging the 50 lb. satchel through a ventilation duct in the opposite room. The gunfire and screaming mask the scraping sounds created by the bag. By the time Anton checks the vent, Llewelyn has left the motel and hitched a ride out of town.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Or in Chigurh's case, murder is the ONLY solution.
  • Narrator: In the novel, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.
  • New Old West: A very Western story, set in a very Western state, complete with sundowns and showdowns and gunfights.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: A darker example than most.
    • Ed Tom Bell is The Sheriff who is trying to stop Moss and Chigurh, but is too apathetic to be anything more than a Pinball Protagonist.
    • Anton Chigurh is a Professional Killer who's out to get the money from Moss and kill him for the trouble. Not that the trouble really makes any difference, as he's also a psycho who ends up killing most people he meets.
    • Llewelyn Moss is an opportunistic Jerkass who's in it for himself, but he's not psychotic like Chigurh.
  • No Ending: Played with. As noted above, with the exceptions of Chigurh and Sheriff Bell, every major character dies. A quick shot reveals that Chigurh had found the money in the ventilation system again, and left with the money, but it goes by fast and is irrelevant to the story by this point. Further, Chigurh is grievously wounded — in the novel, it's taken further, where the sheriffs will continue tracking him.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • The man with the chicken crates who stops to give Chigurh a jump. He gets a new hole in his head for his troubles.
    • Moss' act of mercy to bring the dying Mexican mobster water gets the cartels on his trail, though it also gives him warning that someone is looking for the cash, which sets Moss running and helps him figure out that there's a tracking beacon in the cash before Chigurh can ambush him.
  • Nominal Hero: Moss. He is impulsive, prideful, and stubborn, to the point that his actions get a lot of innocent people killed as well as ensure his own doom. However, we are not supposed to see him as a hero so much as an opportunistic, foolish man in a situation far out of his depth. Character-wise, the only thing he really has going for him is that the men hunting for him (both Chigurh and the Mexican cartel) are a lot worse.
  • Noodle Incident: When Wells is introduced, his employer asks him when he last saw Chigurh, and Wells cites the exact date. We do later learn that Wells is indeed familiar with Chigurh... but we never learn what that earlier incident was about or (given what a psychopath Chigurh is) how Wells managed to survive.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Played with. Sheriff Bell often muses about how someone like Chigurh wouldn't have gotten away with anything in the "old days," but this claim is undermined at the end when his uncle Ellis tells him a tale of how his grandfather was killed in cold blood on his own porch in 1909 by a trio of Native Americans, and then says to him flat out that claiming the "old days" were better or more moral is nothing but vanity.
  • Not Afraid of Hell: The nineteen-year-old murderer at the beginning fits this trope like a glove, going to the electric chair without complaint after murdering his girlfriend for no apparent reason:
    "Said he knew he was goin' to hell. Told it to me out of his own mouth. I don't know what to make of that. I surely don't. I thought I'd never seen a person like that and it got me to wonderin' if maybe he was some new kind. I watched them strap him into the seat and shut the door. He might've looked a bit nervous about it but that was about all. I really believe that he knew he was goin' to be in hell in fifteen minutes... He was not hard to talk to. Called me Sheriff. But I didn't know what to say to him. What do you say to a man that by his own admission has no soul?"
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The build-up before the hotel shootout between Llewelyn and Chigurh.
    • Anton can even make a coin flip absolutely terrifying.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The one time Anton Chigurh meets his match is when the receptionist at the trailer park office refuses to tell him where Moss works. He repeats his demand in an attempt to intimidate her, but she doesn't cave.
  • Ominous Walk: Anton Chigurh uses this quite a bit, emphasizing his status as The Dreaded.
  • Parrot Exposition: Chigurh, especially so during the gas station scene:
    Owner: Will there be something else?
    Chigurh: I don't know, will there?
    Owner: Is something wrong?
    Chigurh: With what?
    Owner: With anything.
    Chigurh: Is that what you're asking me? Is there something wrong with anything?
    Owner: Will there be anything else?
    Chigurh: You already asked me that.
    Owner: Well, I need to see about closing now.
    Chigurh: See about closing?
    Owner: Yes, sir.
    Chigurh: What time do you close?
    Owner: Now. We close now.
    Chigurh: Now is not a time. What time do you close?
    Owner: Generally around dark. At dark.
    Chigurh: (Beat) You don't know what you're talking about, do you?
  • Pet the Dog: Llewelyn goes back to the scene of the gunfight with a full carton of water out of sympathy for the driver he refused to help earlier ("I ain't got no damn agua") who was probably dead anyway.
  • Pile Bunker: One of Chigurh's weapons of choice.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: In his first scene, Anton Chigurh allows a deputy to arrest him, slips his cuffs from back to front, kills the deputy, and steals a police car. All just to prove a point about supreme will.
  • Police Are Useless: The cops are either shot or are too late — and even then, Ed Tom is either unwilling or unable to do more, such as help federals and DEA agents with investigating the bizarre murder scene. In the end, he decides he's had enough after Llewelyn is killed right before he manages to reach him.
  • Professional Killer: Both Anton Chigurh and Carson Wells are assassins-for-hire and psychopathic, but Chigurh far outstrips Wells in the latter aspect.
  • Quieter Than Silence: Due to there being almost no music prior to the closing credits, the audience can hear a lot of environmental sounds like wind and footsteps when characters aren't talking or shooting.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Is Chigurh really hiding in the hotel room where Moss was killed when Bell decides to check it, or Bell, after noticing that the knob is missing, is just imagining that Chigurh could be there, ready to ambush him? At first sight, it would appear to be the former (Bell never actually meets Chigurh, so it would make no sense for him to "imagine" him exactly as he looked like), however, some elements point to the latter (when Bell opens the door, it appears that behind it there would be no space for Chigurh to hide. Also, the air tank that Chigurh uses to carry around to pry doors open is nowhere to be seen, hinting that Chigurh may have already left). According to those who have read it, not even the script provides a clear answer about that.
  • Rule of Three: Chigurh doesn't like getting blood on his boots, which we see three times: the first time in the hotel room when he shoots the Mexicans (while in sock feet). The second time, after he shoots Wells, he puts his feet up as he's on the phone with Llewelyn. The third time, as he's coming out of Carla Jean's mother's house, proof that he also killed Carla Jean.
  • Self Stitching: Chigurh blows up a car so he can steal medical supplies to treat his injuries; he's later shown stitching himself up, as if we need proof that he's any more badass than he already is.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Carson Wells. Subverted by Anton Chigurh, however. Llewelyn eventually realizes that there's no way Chigurh could be tracking him so effectively without some sort of advantage. Sure enough, there's a tracking device in the money bag.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Chigurh uses the cattle gun to do this when he's not using it for... other things.
  • Shout-Out: Mike Zoss Pharmacy. "Mike Zoss" is the name of the Coen Brothers' production company, and it was the actual name of a pharmacy located in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
  • A Simple Plan: A very dark take. All Moss has to do is escape the cartel, send his wife away, and run long enough to ensure he's shaken them off his tail before he returns and gets to safety with his wife and the money. Right?
  • Sinister Southwest: A poacher in 1980s Southwest Texas finds the aftermath of a drug deal gone bloody in the desert and retrieves a briefcase full of money, leading to a peculiar hitman violently pursuing him across the state.
  • The Sociopath: Anton Chigurh is such a potent one that he's a walking force of unstoppable evil.
  • Stealing from Thieves: Both the book and its movie adaptation invoke this trope to get Anton Chigurh chasing Llewelyn Moss, a Vietnam veteran who stumbles on a drug deal gone awry. He steals a suitcase full of money from the scene, only to get caught going back to the crime scene...
  • Surprise Car Crash: One is used as part of its Anti-Climax ending. After Anton Chigurh kills Carla Jean and drives off before the police arrive, his car is struck down by another vehicle as he is leaving the neighborhood. Chigurh is as much a victim of circumstance as anyone else.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Gunshots are not something you can easily shrug off, even if you are a trained veteran or an unstoppable killing machine. Both Llewelyn and Chigurh have to carefully treat bullet wounds they get,
    • Llewelyn and Chigurh don't face off in an explosive showdown. Chigurh isn't the only person looking for Llewelyn's stolen money, and unsurprisingly, some other hitmen get the drop on Llewelyn instead, resulting in him being killed anticlimactically offscreen.
    • Chigurh's car crash in the finale shows that, for all he thinks of himself as an unstoppable entity, he's still just a man, and evading death in a gun fight without breaking a sweat doesn't mean you can't be killed by something as mundane as a driver on a sleepy suburban street running through a stop sign. The fact that he only survives through pure luck just drives it home further.
  • The Syndicate: The Matacumbe Petroleum Group, which is the company that owns the stolen money and hires both Anton Chigurh and Carson Wells to recover it.
  • Take a Third Option: Subverted. Carla refuses to call the coin Chigurh flips for her. He kills her anyway.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Moss phones Wells, only to find him dead. When Chigurh speaks with him, Moss confidently asserts he has found a way to beat him without involving his wife. Moss goes to a motel to prepare, and he ends up dead, not even by Chigurh himself, but the Mexican mobsters looking for the money.
  • That's What She Said: Amazingly enough. In the book, during the first exchange between Moss and Carla Jean.
    Keep it up.
    That's what she said.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The cop in the opening. Instead of putting Anton Chigurh in a jail cell after arresting him, he turns his back on him and sits at his desk to make a phone call, believing he has everything under control.
  • Trespassing to Talk: The protagonist's wife encountering Psycho for Hire Anton Chigurh in her house, having been waiting there for her to return.
  • Uncertain Doom: After Chigurh kills the man who hired Wells, the accountant with whom said man was speaking asks Chigurh what he'll do to him:
    Accountant: Are you going to shoot me?
    Chigurh: That depends: do you see me?
  • Useless Protagonist: Sheriff Bell, who is too apathetic to even properly pursue Chigurh, unlike the hotshot deputies and the out-of-state investigators trying to piece together what's going on. One of his major scenes is his deputy trying to encourage him to go with the investigators at the crime scenes — he doesn't care, saying it'll do no good. He doesn't bother with investigating further after he fails to stop Chigurh or the hitmen from killing Llewelyn.
  • Villains Never Lie: Averted. The Juarez Cartel recovers their heroin from the deal gone wrong, but reports it missing to the other party involved.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Llewelyn, after inspecting his wounds past the Mexican border.
  • Weapon-Based Characterization:
    • Bell uses a revolver for a service pistol in the novel, highlighting his old-fashioned ways.
    • Chigurh carries a captive bolt pistol wherever he goes and also has a silenced shotgun to sneak up on targets with, demonstrating his resourcefulness and unpredictability.
    • Moss doesn't have a signature weapon, using whatever's at hand while on the run. He uses everything from his hunting rifle to a Sawed-Off Shotgun.
  • Wham Line: It doubles as a Badass Boast...or it would have, if not for the eventual subversion.
    Llewelyn Moss: Yeah, I'm going to bring you something, alright. I decided to make you a special project of mine. You ain't going have to come looking for me at all.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: The duel between Chigurh and Moss in the book, Moss turns on his bathroom light and hides in the dark, and when Chigurh inspects the bathroom, Moss holds him at gunpoint and escorts him down the hall with Chigurh facing away. He has the opportunity to kill him right there, but is apparently reluctant to commit murder.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Llewelyn Moss. He refuses to accept that the world isn't as black and white as he believes it is, and acts like he's a stereotypical action hero. This flaw ends up getting him killed.
    • Moss is clever enough to keep making plans after he realizes he's being hunted (and how). Notably, he's the only one of Chigurh's targets that the latter fails to trap/kill with minimal effort. Unfortunately, Moss' cleverness isn't quite enough, even if it's not Chigurh who nails him in the end.
    • When Anton Chigurh is outsmarted and injured by Moss outside the Eagle Motel, he realizes bushwhacking the Vietnam veteran isn't going to work. Anton immediately restructures his hunt to prioritize eliminating Moss' only way out: Wells and the man who hired him. He then threatens to kill his wife, in order to lure Moss to the nearest airport.
  • You Keep Telling Yourself That: It practically defines the character of Anton Chigurh. The film version stresses this even further; in the book, he manages to intimidate Carla Jean into calling the coin toss. In the film, we never see her break. She refuses to give him that 'out', and it's the closest he gets to a defeat.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Chigurh does this to everybody to the point it's impossible to deal with him.
    Carson Wells: You can't make a deal with him. Even if you gave him the money, he'd still kill you just for troubling him. He's a peculiar man.